A few words from HST, part 6

Posted in R.I.P., HST on May 4th, 2017 by bill

This passage, again from “The Temptations of Jean-Claude Killy” (1970), I’m posting just because it made me laugh out loud. We can always use that. It takes place at a car show in Chicago and features a cameo by O.J. Simpson, then an NFL rookie.

Jean-Claude makes his pitch for Chevrolet every two hours on the button: 1–3–5–7–9. The even numbered hours are reserved for O.J. Simpson.

Barker: “Tell me, O.J., are you faster than that car over there?”

O.J.: You mean that groovy Chevrolet? Naw, man, that’s the only thing I know that’s faster than me… ho, ho….”

Meanwhile, slumped in the folding chair near the Killy exhibit, smoking a pipe and brooding on the spooks in this place, I am suddenly confronted by three young boys wearing Bass Weejuns and Pendleton shirts, junior-high types, and one of them asks me: “Are you Jean-Claude Killy?”

“That’s right,” I said.

“What are you doing?” they asked.

Well, you goddamn silly little waterhead, what the hell does in look like I’m doing? But I didn’t say that. I gave the question some thought. “Well,” I said finally, “I’m just sitting here smoking marijuana.” I held up my pipe. “This is what makes me ski so fast.”

Their eyes swelled up like young grapefruits. They stared at me — waiting for a laugh, I think — then backed away. Five minutes later I looked up and found them still watching me, huddled about twenty feet away behind the sky-blue Z-28 Chevvy on its slow-moving turntable. I waved my pipe at them and smiled like Hubert Humphrey…but they didn’t wave back.

A few words from HST, part 5

Posted in R.I.P., HST, Read it in books on May 2nd, 2017 by bill

This excerpt from Hunter’s profile of the skier Jean-Claude Killy, circa 1970, is relevant to current events in a slightly different way from some of the other pieces I’ve been posting. See if you can spot it.

I boarded the plane and instantly found myself involved in a game of musical chairs with the couple who were being moved back to the tourist compartment so Jean-Claude and I could have their first-class seats. “I’ve blocked these two off for you,” the man in the blue uniform told me.

The dowdy little stewardess told the victims how sorry she was — over and over again, while the man howled in the aisle. I hunkered down in the seat and stared straight ahead, wishing him well…. “You sons of bitches!” he yelled, shaking his fist at the crewmen who were pushing him back towards the tourist section. I was hoping he would whack one of them or at least refuse to stay on the plane but he caved in, allowing himself to be hustled off like a noisy beggar.

“What was that about?” Killy asked me.

I told him. “Bad scene, eh?” he said. Then he pulled a car racing magazine out of his briefcase and focused on that. I thought of going back and advising the man that he could get a full refund on his ticket if he kept yelling, but the flight was delayed for at least an hour on the runway and I was afraid to leave my seat for fear it might be grabbed by some late-arriving celebrity.

Within moments, a new hassle developed. I asked the stewardess for a drink and was told that it was against the rules  to serve booze until the plane was airborne. Thirty minutes later, I got the same answer. There is something in the corporate manner of United Airlines that reminds me of the California Highway Patrol, the exaggerated politeness of people who would be a hell of a lot happier if all their customers were in jail — and especially you, sir.

 

A few words from HST, part 4

Posted in R.I.P., HST on April 24th, 2017 by bill

How long, oh Lord, how long? And how much longer will we have to wait before some high-powered shark with a fistful of answers will finally bring us face-to-face with the ugly question that is already so close to the surface in this country, that sooner or later even politicians will have to cope with it?

Is the democracy worth all the risks and problems that necessarily go with it? Or, would we all be happier by admitting that the whole thing was a lark from the start and now that it hasn’t worked out, to hell with it.

—“Fear and Loathing in the Bunker,” 1974

A few words from HST, part 3

Posted in R.I.P., HST on April 14th, 2017 by bill

A good month after finishing Hell’s Angels, I finally cracked open The Great Shark Hunt to look for material of current interest. It didn’t take long. The first piece after the Author’s Note is called “Fear and Loathing in the Bunker,” and on the second page Hunter says:

Nixon…was blessed with a mixture of arrogance and stupidity that caused him to blow the boilers almost immediately after taking command. By bringing in hundreds of thugs, fixers and fascists to run the Government, he was able to crank almost every problem he touched into a mindbending crisis. About the only disaster he hasn’t brought down on us yet is a nuclear war with either Russia or China or both…but he still has time, and the odds of his actually doing it are not all that long.

This seems especially apropos in a week where President Von Clownstick discovered how much fun it is to bomb people. First it was Syria, then Afghanistan, and North Korea may be next:

China warned on Friday that tensions on the Korean Peninsula could run out of control, after North Korea said it could test a nuclear weapon whenever its top leader, Kim Jong-un, decided, and as an American naval group neared the peninsula in a show of resolve.

“The United States and South Korea and North Korea are engaging in tit for tat, with swords drawn and bows bent, and there have been storm clouds gathering,” China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, said in Beijing. (New York Times, 4/14/2017).

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A few words from HST, part 2

Posted in Bread and circuses, R.I.P., HST, Read it in books on March 3rd, 2017 by bill

America has been breeding mass anomie since the end of World War II. It is not a political thing, but the sense of new realities, of urgency, anger and sometimes desperation in a society where even the highest authorities seem to be grasping at straws.

The above was written in reference to the Hell’s Angels, circa 1966, but just imagine how much worse things have gotten 50 years down the line. Well, I guess you don’t really have to…all you have to do is look around.

A few words from HST, part 1

Posted in Bread and circuses, R.I.P., HST, Read it in books on February 25th, 2017 by bill

My call for a visitation from the ghost of Hunter S. Thompson has so far gone unheeded, so I have decided to embark on a rereading of the complete HST oeuvre, starting with Hell’s Angels. When appropriate, I will share a few choice bits.

Parts of HA seem oddly relevant in the current landscape, particularly the portrayal of people whose politics are consistently at odds with their own self-interest. (“The Angels will be among the first to be locked up or croaked if the politicians they think they agree with ever come to power.”)  The following could easily refer to a certain subset of Von Clownstick voters, could it not?

Their lack of education has not only rendered them completely useless in a highly technical economy, but it has also given them the leisure to cultivate a powerful resentment…and to translate it into a destructive cult.

Buy the Ticket, Take the Ride (Pt. 7 and Final)

Posted in R.I.P., HST on October 9th, 2005 by bill

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“One owes respect to the living: To the Dead one owes only the truth.”
—Voltaire (via HST)

One last thing.
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Buy the Ticket, Take the Ride (Pt. 6)

Posted in R.I.P., HST on October 8th, 2005 by bill

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Although labeled “Dr. Gonzo,” this Ralph Steadman illustration actually depicts Raoul Duke, a.k.a. Hunter S. Thompson.

When I started this screed almost two months ago, I had no idea that it would absorb all my writing energy, if not my life, for so long…but here we are, it’s a cool day in October, the days are getting noticeably shorter, and in some ways I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface. But fuck it, sooner or later this thread is going to have to be terminated to make room for whatever comes next. There are just a few loose ends I feel obligated to tie up first.

* * *

In examining what makes Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas tick, I omitted for simplicity’s sake one factor that I would be remiss in not mentioning: the contribution of Ralph Steadman, the illustrator. It just wouldn’t have been the same book without his depictions of Raoul Duke, Dr. Gonzo, and the various Vegas citizens, cops, and lizards that they enounter in the course of their adventures.
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Buy the Ticket, Take the Ride (Pt. 5)

Posted in R.I.P., HST on October 7th, 2005 by bill

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After a long and perilous journey, we have now arrived where I wanted to get to in the first place, which is Las Vegas.

I was 16 years old when I first read Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and it changed my life — not entirely for the better, but that’s water under the bridge now. Like a great early experience with sex, drugs, or rock’n’roll, it was the kind of rush you find yourself chasing after for a long time, and never quite recapturing.

In my relatively sober middle age I find myself asking questions like, why is Fear and Loathing so great — or, to put it another way, what’s so great about it? Why is it so much fun, when its subject matter is not just fear and loathing, but also paranoia and disillusionment? And what is it, exactly, when you get right down to it?

To answer those questions — or at least come up with a reasonable-sounding response — you need to look at how it came to be.
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Buy the Ticket, Take the Ride (Pt. 4)

Posted in R.I.P., HST on September 17th, 2005 by bill

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“I’d like to do a book on people who play polo and give me a lot of free booze. I got tired of living in that Hell’s Angels world…and fooling around in a lot of crummy bars.”
—HST, 1968

The Gonzo era began in earnest with an article called “The Kentucky Derby Is Decadent and Depraved,” which Dr. Thompson wrote for Scanlan’s Monthly in 1970. If you’ve never read it, I encourage you to do so right now; it’s a funny and quick read, only about 14 pages. Here’s a link if you need one (you’re probably going to want to print it out; or better yet, just get a copy of The Great Shark Hunt).

In the years since his sojourn in the Haight-Ashbury, the Doctor had talked football with Richard Nixon, then almost accidentally blown up Nixon’s plane while lighting a cigarette; been beaten and thrown through a plate glass window by Chicago police at the 1968 Democratic convention; and masterminded the “Freak Power” campaign of Joe Edwards, who came within a few votes of becoming mayor of Aspen, where Thompson had settled after leaving California.
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